Summer meet generates nearly $800 million in handle with paid attendance surpassing 1.1 million
by Pat McKenna
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that the 40-day summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course generated more than 1.1 million in paid attendance for the first time since 2018 and nearly $800 million in all-sources handle.
Despite one of the wettest summers in history, which forced an unprecedented 65 races off the turf, all-sources handle totaled $799,229,288 with paid attendance continuing its steady climb to 1,105,683. The handle was the third largest in Saratoga’s history while this summer also marked the eighth consecutive season with attendance exceeding 1 million fans.*
“Thanks to the fans who visited Saratoga Race Course over these 40 days, and all those who watched and wagered from home, the popularity of the summer meet continues to exceed all expectations,” said NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke. “The world-class racing held here each summer is made possible by the owners, trainers, jockeys and backstretch community who collectively dedicate so much to the horses and the sport.
“At the same time, the continued success of Saratoga depends upon our ability to continuously enhance equine safety through science and technology,” added O’Rourke. “In the coming months, NYRA will make significant investments in PET scan imaging to identify pre-existing injuries; finalize the path forward regarding the adoption of synthetic surfaces at each venue; and expand the use of biometric wearable devices. Horses, fans and the racing community deserve nothing less.”
Throughout the 2023 summer meet, Saratoga and the surrounding communities appeared on the national stage more prominently than ever before thanks to an unprecedented broadcast partnership with FOX Sports. FOX and NYRA debuted a new programming series called FOX SARATOGA SATURDAY which featured live national coverage for six consecutive Saturdays from Saratoga Race Course on FOX, beginning on July 22 and culminating with the Travers on August 26.
Prior to the start of the season, the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency released the findings of an independently commissioned study which attributed $371 million in economic activity and more than 2,900 jobs to the annual Saratoga summer meet. The report found that the overall economic impact generated by Saratoga Race Course has increased by 57 percent since the previous study conducted in 2014.
Saratoga by the numbers (2023 vs. 2022)
Inclement weather forced 65 races off the turf, compared to 16 in 2022, which largely accounted for the nine percent decline in all-sources handle when compared to the record-setting wagering in 2022.
Average daily paid attendance surged past 27,000 for the first time since 2019 to finish at 27,642.
Total paid attendance: 1,105,683 vs. 1,075,586 (+2.8%)
Average daily paid attendance: 27,642
Races off the turf: 65 vs. 16 (+306%)
Races cancelled due to weather (8/4/2023): 4
All-sources handle: $799,229,288 vs. $878,211,963 (-9.0%)
Average daily handle: $19,980,732
Total on-track handle: $142,918,763 vs. $152,274,728 (-6.1%)
Total races: 410 (270 dirt and 140 turf) vs. 417 (218 dirt and 199 turf)
Average field size: 7.64 vs. 7.76 (-1.6%)
Number of timed workouts since Saratoga opened for training in April: 10,738
2023 summer meet highlights
Klaravich Stables was the meet’s leading owner; Chad Brown and Linda Rice shared the H. Allen Jerkens training title; and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. captured the Angel Cordero, Jr. riding title.
Trainer Jena Antonucci made history as only the second woman to train a Travers champion when Arcangelo captured the 154th edition of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers. Earlier this spring, Antonucci entered the record books as the first female conditioner to win a Triple Crown race with Arcangelo in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Hall of Fame Jockey Javier Castellano added a seventh Travers to his growing collection of victories in Saratoga’s most celebrated race.
7-year-old Casa Creed joined just three other predecessors to claim multiple victories in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave when he made it back-to-back wins for Hall of Fame Trainer Bill Mott and owners Lee Einsidler of LRE Racing and Mike Francesa’s JEH Racing.
NYRA celebrated the opening of the new Saratoga Backstretch Clinic in collaboration with Saratoga Hospital and BEST to expand on the existing healthcare services offered to members of NYRA’s backstretch community. Funded by John Hendrickson as a tribute to his late wife, Marylou Whitney, the backstretch clinic replaced a temporary structure that previously housed on-site healthcare services at Saratoga Race Course.
NYRA paid tribute to Funny Cide, one of the most successful and popular New York-breds of all time, following his passing earlier this summer at age 23.
Two of Saratoga’s most popular concessions, The Finish Line Grill and Modelo Finish Line Bar, received significant renovations and enhancements as NYRA continued to reinvest in the venue with a series of upgrades to improve guest amenities.
Fans enthusiastically responded to the second annual Saratoga Breakfast and Breeding Farm Tour, which expanded to three days per week and featured the addition of Song Hill Thoroughbreds to complement Old Tavern Farm. The tours sold out for the second consecutive year.
Saratoga marked the 10-year anniversary of New York State’s celebrated Taste NY program with an expanded menu of New York craft beer, hard cider, wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate and gelato from Long Island to the Adirondacks and the Capital Region to Western New York, as a showcase of the state’s robust food and beverage industry.
NYRA continued its tradition of honoring first responders, active military and veterans at Saratoga Race Course on First Responders Day and Military Appreciation Day.
NYRA hosted two members of the 1980 Men’s “Miracle on Ice” Gold Medal-winning Olympic Hockey Team in conjunction with the 40th running of the Lake Placid. Leading scorer Mark Johnson and John Harrington met with fans and presented the trophy for the Lake Placid.
Live racing resumes on Thursday, September 14 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet which runs through Sunday, October 29. The 28-day meet offers a total of 44 stakes worth $9.275 million in total purses. The Belmont at the Big A fall meet will include four Grade 1 events and six Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers.
For additional information, visit NYRA.com.
*Excludes 2020 when fans were not permitted on track due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
About the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA)
NYRA holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of New York State’s horse racing economy, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual economic impact.